By Kevin Dotson and Wayne Sterling, CNN
When he was 20 years old in 2010, Kyle Beach was pursuing his NHL dream when he was called up to the Chicago Blackhawks as a “Black Ace,” a prospect player who could be available to play for the NHL club if needed. It was a couple of weeks later, Beach, now 31, said in an interview Wednesday with Canadian sports television station TSN, that his life “was changed forever.”
On Tuesday, the NHL announced it had fined the Blackhawks $2 million for what the league described as “the organization’s inadequate internal procedures and insufficient and untimely response” relating to the team’s handling of alleged incidents of sexual misconduct involving former video coach Brad Aldrich in 2010. The league says it punished the team following an independent investigation.
The Blackhawks commissioned a probe after a lawsuit was filed over the 2010 incident earlier this year by an unidentified hockey player, according to the report. The independent investigation determined that on May 8 or 9, 2010, there was a sexual encounter between Aldrich and the unidentified 20-year-old player, who was a member of the Blackhawks’ minor league affiliate team, at Aldrich’s apartment. The player alleged that Aldrich sexually assaulted him while Aldrich contended that the encounter was consensual, the report reads.
Beach, who now plays professionally in Germany, has come forward as the “John Doe” in the report and as “John Doe” in the lawsuit. On Wednesday, he expressed “a great feeling of relief and vindication” and that “it was no longer my word against everybody else’s.”
Beach also said he wanted to come forward and put his name on this.
“To be honest, it’s already out there,” Beach said to TSN. “The details were pretty accurate in the report, and it’s been figured out. But more than that, I’ve been a survivor, I am a survivor. And I know I’m not alone. I know I’m not the only one, male or female. And I buried this for 10 years, 11 years. And it’s destroyed me from the inside out.”
Following TSN’s interview with Beach, the Blackhawks released a statement, saying the club commended Beach in coming forward.
“As an organization, the Chicago Blackhawks reiterate our deepest apologies to him for what he has gone through and for the organization’s failure to promptly respond when he bravely brought this matter to light in 2010,” the statement said. “It was inexcusable for the then-executives of the Blackhawks organization to delay taking action regarding the reported sexual misconduct. No playoff game or championship is more important than protecting our players and staff from predatory behavior.”
‘Focus on the team and the playoffs’
Blackhawks president of hockey operations and general manager Stan Bowman and senior vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac resigned Tuesday after their alleged roles in the matter were detailed in the investigation conducted by law firm Jenner & Block, LLP.
According to the investigation report, MacIsaac, then the Blackhawks’ senior director of hockey administration, became aware of the incident on May 23, 2010, and dispatched team mental skills coach and team counselor Jim Gary to interview the player, who said that Aldrich had pressured him to have sex and threatened his career if he refused.
Later that day, the investigation report said, a meeting of Blackhawks senior leadership was convened to discuss the situation.
Bowman recalled, according to the investigation report, that then-president John McDonough and then-head coach Joel Quenneville “made comments about the challenge of getting to the Stanley Cup Finals and a desire to focus on the team and the playoffs.” Just hours earlier, Chicago had won the Western Conference Championship to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. Quenneville currently is the head coach for the Florida Panthers.
When discussing the situation years later with another team employee, MacIsaac said that McDonough wanted to avoid negative publicity during the playoffs. Bowman recalled McDonough telling the group he would handle the situation, according to the investigation report.
But Aldrich continued to travel and work with the team, per the investigation report, throughout the playoffs, and the investigation found no sign that any action was taken to address the situation until June 14, after the season had ended. The Blackhawks’ policy, at the time, was that all reports of sexual harassment would be investigated “promptly and thoroughly.”
The report said, “Our investigation uncovered no evidence, however, that McDonough or anyone else either contacted Human Resources or initiated an investigation between May 23 and June 14.”
During the interim, the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup on June 9, and during a team celebration on June 10, Aldrich allegedly made a sexual advance toward a 22-year-old team intern. The intern rejected Aldrich’s advance, but did not report the incident, the investigation report reads. It was not clear from the report how the alleged incident involving the intern ultimately came to light.
“The failure to promptly and thoroughly investigate the matter not only violated the Blackhawks’ own sexual harassment policy in effect at the time, the decision to take no action from May 23 to June 14, 2010, had real consequences, including allegations involving an additional unwanted sexual advance by Aldrich to a Blackhawks’ intern before he was ultimately separated from the Club,” the NHL said.
Aldrich was paid severance and had his name engraved on the Stanley Cup
On June 14, 2010, McDonough informed team human resources about the incident and the May 23 team leadership meeting. McDonough said, according to the director of human resources, “it was decided that the group would not alert Human Resources or do anything about the incident during the playoffs so as not to disturb team chemistry.” McDonough told investigators he did not recall this conversation.
Nearly a decade later, the Blackhawks fired McDonough. The team did not state the reason for the firing on its news release last year. The team said, “it was the right decision for the future of the organization and its fans.”
The director of human resources met with Aldrich on June 16, 2010, offering him the option of an investigation of the incident with the unnamed player or resigning. Aldrich opted to resign and no team investigation was ever conducted, according to the investigation report.
Aldrich received severance and a playoff bonus. His name was engraved on the Stanley Cup. He received a championship ring and was allowed to take the Stanley Cup to his hometown for a day, per the investigation report.
“The only way I could describe it was that I felt sick, I felt sick to my stomach,” Beach told TSN of watching Aldrich interacting with the team when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup.
“I reported this and I was made aware that it made it all the way up the chain of command by ‘Doc’ Gary and nothing happened. It was like his life was the same as it was the day before. The same every day. And then when they won, to see him paraded around lifting the Cup, at the parade, at the team pictures, at celebrations, it made me feel like nothing. It made me feel like I didn’t exist. It made me feel like, that I wasn’t important and … it made me feel like he was in the right and I was wrong.”
Aldrich went on to work with USA Hockey, the University of Notre Dame and Miami University in Ohio, according to the investigation report. He also worked at Houghton High School in Houghton, Michigan, where he was arrested and pleaded guilty to fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor in 2013.
CNN has reached out to MacIsaac, Quenneville, Aldrich and McDonough for comment. CNN has attempted to reach out to Gary for comment.
In a statement Tuesday, Bowman said, “The team needs to focus on its future, and my continued participation would be a distraction. I think too much of this organization to let that happen.” Bowman also stepped down from his position as general manager of the 2022 US Olympic Men’s Hockey Team, according to USA Hockey.
The Blackhawks organization apologized to its fans in a letter published Tuesday, saying, “It is clear the organization and its executives at that time did not live up to our own standards or values in handling these disturbing incidents. We deeply regret the harm caused to John Doe and the other individuals who were affected and the failure to promptly respond. As an organization, we extend our profound apologies to the individuals who suffered from these experiences. We must — and will — do better.”
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CNN’s Jill Martin contributed to this report.